The arrival of Christianity in Ireland saw the establishment of religious settlements and dwellings across the country.
An episode of 'A World of Houses' titled 'One Thousand Years of Christianity' traces the development of ecclesiastical architecture in Ireland from the coming of Christianity up until the dissolution of the monasteries.It features St Molaise's Monastery on Inishmurray, off the Sligo coast.
For seven thousand years, Ireland had been inhabited by a pagan people. The arrival of the first missionary saints filled with the Holy Spirit and a driving desire to spread the word of God had a tremendous impact.
Men like Saint Patrick and small groups of monks sought out the isolation of wild places where they believed they could be closer to God.
Christianity was to appeal immediately to the fertile Celtic mind and the Irish church quickly took on a highly individual form of its own which was to last for many centuries.
A typical early Christian monastic settlement on the island of Inishmurray off the Sligo coast was founded in the early sixth century by Saint Molaise. The monastery was built within the walls of what was probably an early stone age fort. The church served the islanders as a Sunday church and is known as Saint Molaise’s House. The island also has a schoolhouse known as a Cloghán. The walls of the settlement are similar to the iron age fortress of Grianán of Aileach in County Donegal. The passages provided a form of protection for the monks at times of bad weather and when they were under attack.
Inside the medieval Church of the Fire (Teach na Teine) there is a stone hearth in which glowed a perpetual fire.
It was said that if the fire were to go out, the people would no longer remain on the island.
By the late 1940s, the island was uninhabited.
‘A World of Houses: One Thousand Years of Christianity’ was broadcast on 9 October 1975. The presenter is Mike Murphy.
Illustrations by Sally Shaw-Smith
The programme was filmed and produced by David Shaw-Smith in association with RTÉ.